Essential Kitchen Equipment

The most useless thread got me thinking about the opposite. What are the essential tools for a kitchen to efficiently and effectively get work done?

Here is my list, please add your own. Let’s think of affordability, also.

**A Set of Quality Knives. ** Wustof not required, but make sure they have a good heft, can hold an edge, and can be resharpened.

**A Real Cutting Board ** Wood or Delrin. NO glass (creeps me out just thinking about the damage to the edge of the knife).

Stainless Steel Nesting Bowls Lightweight, easy clean and take a lot of abuse. Can go from freezer to burner without damage.

**Quality Pot and Pan Set ** Caphalon is good stuff, but Cuisinart has a nice line that I actually like better. The Cuisinart works well on flat top burners because of the flat steel bottom that doesn’t warp. If you use gas then a flat bottom is not as important.

Too Many Whisks, Tongs, Spatulas, Spoons, etc. I really like the Oxo line for this. Generally well-though out, well-built products. Get plenty since several of each will always be dirty.

I highly recommend going to a restaurant supply place to pick up the above items.

High Output Stovetop Restaurant food tastes good because they use very high heat to sear and caramelize their food. A quick heating burner also helps to get work done faster, leaving more time for wine.

High Output Outside Venting High heat makes smoke and it has to get out of the kitchen pronto. Look inside any restaurant kitchen and you will see massive venting. 600 cfm is the bare minimum. 900 afm is aceptable. 1200 cfm is better. More is best. Outside venting is essential. Back it all up with a box fan in a window that can take out the residual.

Convection Oven Not really essential, but if you are going for a new stove and vent, go with convection also. Really cooks food evenly, essential for baking. The convection broiler is very handy–works much faster and evenly to brown food than a regular oven.

The above three are expensive, yes, but essential if you want to step up your cooking to the next level and get the flavors that come from high heat (and resulting smoke).

Food Processor Any brand works well. The bigger the better.

Stand Mixer Only if you do a lot of baking. Otherwise, a hand mixer works just fine.

Any others?

I would add an accurate set of measuring spoons and cups and a digital scale.

Otherwise your list is great.


Microwave. Seriously. Whether you’re a stereotypical bachelor cook or can make Hollandaise blindfolded, it is an essential part of prepping, cooking, and finishing.

Tupperware (or equivalent). No one cooks without either leftover meals or ingredients. A good, complete set decreases overall frustration (where’s that lid? Why won’t it close?) and makes for a much smoother practice. Too many people outfitting new apartments or kitchens pay attention to their pots and pans and go for the cheapest or quickest out in the food storage department or end up with a mishmash of different sets. Get one high-quality set with interchangeable lids and kitchen bliss will skyrocket.

I’ve gone the other way on this one. I have plenty of high-quality tupperware, and the hell with it - I can never find the right size or the right lid. Interchangeable lids? Does that exist? That would go a long way towards making me buy it.

I’m seriously thinking of throwing away everything except the disposable deli containers (like this) that I get from my local restaurant supply store. I reuse them several times so I’m not killing the earth too badly, but I still feel bad enough about throwing them away that I just can’t bring myself to totally toss the tupperware.

All of my leftover containers come from the Chinese takeout place. Instead of the traditional cardboard takeout boxes, they pack their food in plastic containers like this. I eat the food, I wash 'em out, I put something else in. If I ever need more I just order more food.

A whole set is too much. You only really need three knives: chef’s, paring and bread.

Microplane-style grater if you need to grate hard cheeses, finely grate a little chocolate, or zest citrus. You can get by with one of these, I suspect.

I have a microwave, and use it enough for cooking (especially for steaming or melting butter), but I’m not quite sure I’d put it as essential–the vast majority of meals I cook don’t touch the microwave except for reheating.

I agree on Tupperware or similar storage solutions.

Though I can deal without one if necessary, a meat thermometer makes life so much easier, that I’d just about call it essential. At any rate, I’d prefer one in my kitchen.

This probably fits under the OP’s pots and pans category, but a solid cast-iron Dutch oven would also fit under essential. Depends on your cooking style, though.

A mesh strainer or chinoise.

A spice grinder and/or mortar and pestle.

We’ve had thesefrom Rubbermaid for a couple years. They’re great. There are three sizes of lids, each that fit a couple different sized containers. The lids are also the same basic shape, so storing them and finding the right size is very straightforward. They’re flexible and easy to use, go in the microwave (something I’d be hesitant to do with take-out containers), and stack nicely. There’s a range of sizes from half an onion to why’d-I-make-so-much-chili?

I’ve done the save-the-takeout container route, the mega-kit from Sam’s Club route, the patchwork of good-to-better items from home stores route, and we eventually cleaned ourselves out and started afresh with a single, good set. I don’t remember what we had before this set; it was good but getting on in years. The same-shaped lid thing really comes in handy–I can’t remember the last time either of us had to shift through our stock looking for the right size/shape for whatever we had to put away. Like knives, any set will ‘do’, but for a good kitchen, it’s in our essential category.

Agree, but I approached the OP for what is essential in a setting-up-a-good-kitchen sort of way. If it were just cooking in general, then I’d go dig out the contents of my frame pack and post what the bare essentials are for survival :slight_smile:

You forgot stabbin’. Some people just insist on stepping over the white line when we’re in the kitchen. Some people need a stabbin’.

Agreed. Except two chefs–a medium and large

A cleaver comes in pretty handy, too.

I use these (link function not working).

Available in three different sizes with three different colored lids. I have a drawer of these I use all of the time. I have another drawer of tupper-like products that I rarely if ever use.

A really good pair of kitchen shears. Get the kind that come apart for cleaning.

Cast iron.

A good, solid mallet.

A food processor. Although I do admit I use our mini-(prep)processor more than I use the full-sized Cuisinart.

Cast Iron seems to have it’s admirers but I have yet to find a consistent use for one. I have a 12" that is too heavy and a 10" that is a little better, but I can easily substitute a stainless or aluminum for 99% of the need.

Cast Iron is great for frying–shallow especially, but I do so little of it that my CI’s stay in the botton of the drawer.

More specifically a 12" cast iron skillet, properly seasoned.

Nothing else sears like one of these babies. Plus, what else would you make your cornbread in?

Beyond that, SHARP knives. I’d rather use a sharp cheap knife than a dull Wusthof Grand Prix. My #1 pet peeve about helping in other people’s kitchens- their knives are invariably dull as hell! I don’t get it- it’s like they’ve never used a sharp knife. And the really sad part is that all you have to do is use one of those consumer sharpening gizmos enough to get it sharp, then use the sharpening steel regularly, and you won’t have to use the sharpening tool but maybe once or twice a year.

I suppose I got this opinion from one of my grandfathers, who among other careers was a butcher for a while when he was young, and who could not abide dull knives. Add in the Boy Scout preference for sharp knives, and I’m a firm fan of sharp blades.

I don’t have one yet, but my workmate has been singing the praises of the egg cooker, for hard or soft boiled, perfect every time, no green white or chipping shells.

mmm egg salad Zippy!

cleaver, seconded, for busting into the acorn squash…

and spoons, one can never have too many spoons…where the 'ell do they all end up?

Salad Spinner any make/model. Too bad an ex-wife took it with the cat. Too bad I don’t eat much salad these days, too. Coincidence? No.

Spice Grinn[d]er echoing above – yeah you can mash them hard spices with a heavy fist, but why bother?

Also as above – all of the containers, even re-used cheapos. No point cooking like a motherfuck if you got to eat it all in one go. Batterie de cuisine, pots, pans, a knife, it goes without saying, you gotta have that shit. Cutting board – a must!

ETA: rubber-headed mallet. It went where my salad spinner went, where my rosemary grows. But it’s a nice thing to have.

Not essential by definition, but the cazuelas I brouhgt back from Spain have some great uses. You can actually put them right on the burner, and of course in the oven. My own recipe is to put a large tomato, couple mushrooms, a jalapeno, and some onion. Drizzle with olive oil and roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes. Yummy over any pasta.

I’d blame those slutty dishes of yours.

Can’t let this go unchallenged. My skillets are used constantly for baking bread, shallow-frying, searing meats – and they are virtually no-maintenance compared with a SS clad pan one must meticulously care for after each crusting of pepper and salt over high heat.

Not pretty, but I’d take one cast iron skillet over a clad copper or aluminum any day, if I had to choose one pan only.